UCLA Football Spring Review: Quarterbacks

May 2 -- UCLA's backup situation is starting to look a little better, and Josh Rosen at least put forward a better spring this year than he did last year...

Quarterbacks

Position MVP: Josh Rosen

He's never looked great in practice, except for that first spring when he was still a high school senior.  But he looked better this spring than he did last spring, when he was learning Kennedy Polamalu's offense.  We've heard that he is practically a kindred spirit with offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, and that hasn't been the case with either Noel Mazzone or Marques Tuiasosopo.  In fact, the quarterbacks as a group have said that last year Tuiasosopo wasn't easy to learn from, and that Fisch is just a complete breath of fresh air.  Rosen said in his interview after the spring game that he's learned more about football from Fisch in the few months he's been at UCLA than ever in his lifetime.  So, Fisch's coaching ability, and his knack for teaching quarterbacks, is already paying dividends, and you could see that evolve with Rosen during spring practice.

Rosen certainly had some ups and downs this spring, and he'll need to show greater consistency once the lights are on in the fall. As we said, though, he's never been a consistently great practice player, so he's a tougher evaluation in that setting than other quarterbacks might be.

Best Younger Player: Devon Modster

Devon Modster probably edged Matt Lynch in performance for spring. Lynch started out stronger, because he had digested the offense quicker in the offseason, but Modster came on throughout the month. We thought both looked markedly better than when we saw them last season, with Lynch particularly looking physically bigger and stronger, and Modster actually looking like he had slimmed down some. In the spring game it wasn't exactly fair since Lynch wasn't working with the same quality of offensive line that Modster was, so he was under fire a bit more. We liked how Modster showed poise in the pocket and didn't panic. We like how both of them -- Modster and Lynch (and freshman Austin Burton, in fact) -- have some ability to create with their legs. We've known that Modster has some ability to run since he was a prospect in high school, but Lynch, who is a pretty big boy at 6-4, showed some decent wheels in spring.

From what we saw toward the end of spring camp, and in the spring game, Modster is ahead of Lynch in the race for the No. 2 QB spot, and we expect that to probably be more cemented by fall camp.

Burton came in as an early entrant and didn't collapse under the pressure, which is essentially being successful given that process. He literally moved into his dorm Sunday, went to his first class Monday and then practice at 7:00 a.m. Tuesday.  Right from the start he showed a decent throwing motion, and his ball spun well. He struggled with throws further down the field, and a big determining factor in whether he can play at this level will definitely be if he develops the arm strength necessary.  He looks very young, though, which is good -- meaning that he has probably has some considerable physical upside ahead of him. 

Player Who Most Needs To Step Up: Rosen

The primary thing to watch with the quarterbacks as a group is their jump in their knowledge and comfort level by fall camp in August, but that's especially true and essential for Rosen. While he was better this spring than he was last spring, he still wasn't at that star-in-the-making level of his first spring at UCLA. This offense is significantly more complex than the offense UCLA had when Rosen was a freshman, and as such the learning curve will be steeper. He's shown more progress to date than he had in Polamalu's offense at this stage, but he'll need to show more in August, once camp begins, and then again in September, when the season begins, for this offense to be a success. Obviously, there are a lot of other moving parts (which we'll get to), but Rosen's ability to make significant strides over the coming four months is arguably the most essential piece to the offensive puzzle.


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